Silence is not an option. pic.twitter.com/qpn8sMo2nu
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 9, 2020
Host William Lou is joined by Raptors 905 lead assistant coach Charles Kissi to discuss player development.
- Kissi’s journey to becoming a coach
- Dwane Casey’s mentorship program
- How Kissi joined the 905
- Developing Oshae Brissett, Paul Watson, and Chris Boucher
- The importance of diversity in hiring
However, that day was memorable for another reason. By that point, I’d covered plenty of press conferences that were held at the Air Canada Centre in rooms that were too small to hold all the attendees: David Beckham in 2007 and the Heat in early 2011 come to mind. However, the Lin press conference was the most packed one of the bunch, with sports, news and celebrity all combining to create the perfect storm of media overflow. At the morning press conference, a CBC broadcaster got the question and prefaced it by saying, “Jeremy, you’ve been called Linderella. Do you think this is a fairy tale?” It was used on the CBC’s minutes-long clip on Lin’s story. In one of my proudest moments in the industry, I was right behind the inquirer, and when he said “Linderella,” I was caught in the CBC’s report rolling my eyes practically behind my own head. (My editor at the time turned it into a GIF. That this video has been lost to time is painful.
There were some Raptors moments that were memorable, if only to me. Julian Wright, the former lottery pick who played 52 games for the Raptors in 2010-11, became the first NBA player not only to partake in a locker-room conversation among reporters but to stand up from his locker to grab a spot standing in that circle of reporters. I think I’ll see someone score 81 points again before I see that occur again. We saw the end of Jose Calderon’s run in Toronto. Calderon remains one of the kindest Raptors in team history, a delight to run into every time he came to Toronto. And if you were around the Raptors’ locker room in the 2012-13 season, you got to hear Jonas Valanciunas’s Borat impression, which was omnipresent as the Lithuanian tried to find a way, any way, to adapt to life in North America.
To confirm, the Raptors did play 230 games over those three years, winning just 79, or a tad more than 34 percent of them. (Amir Johnson led all Raptors in win shares over that span — by far!) Above all, I remember most people involved with the team being justifiably insecure and sensitive about their status. I remember Jay Triano, who was coaching the worst defensive team in the league for the second straight year, pulling me aside to chide me for saying the team wasn’t making progress guarding their bucket. (To be fair, I was being a bit harsh at the time, my senses bombarded with bad basketball.) I remember one Raptors official exchanging text after text with me assessing my mid-season report card of the team, agreeing with some grades and vehemently disagreeing with others. He wasn’t wrong to do so, it is just odd that someone was taking that annual process so seriously. I remember Bryan Colangelo bristling at the criticism he received for giving DeMar DeRozan a four-year rookie contract extension. (Colangelo was right on that one.)
And hey, I even remember a game or two. The most prominent one: the Raptors’ season opener against Indiana in the 2012-13 season. It was the first game for both Valanciunas and Lowry in a Raptors uniform. The Pacers won by two, coming back in the fourth quarter. The Raptors’ offence stalled out late in the game, and George Hill put in the winning bucket with two seconds to go. However, Lowry had 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists that night. Valanciunas was a bit wild, but had a double-double against a big frontcourt in his first NBA game. The Raptors hung around with one of the best teams in the league despite shooting just 36.3 percent from the field.
The Darkhorse Case
This is probably my own bias speaking, but it really does feel like the Raptors have are the most close-knit team in the NBA. This spirit of unity and solidarity goes back through to last season as the team marched onto their title victory, and continues on even now. That’s not to say that the Celtics players don’t like each other, or that everyone isn’t constantly hugging each other on the Bucks or whatever; Toronto just appears to be on another level with it.
Part of this comes from their newly earned championship pedigree. The Raptors’ identity is shaped in large part by its oldest players (Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka), but also its “young” vets like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Norman Powell. That combination of players allows the rest of the squad to fill their roles with comfort and confidence. Nary a word of protest has been heard from anyone on the team about how this has all come together because, well, it’s come together quite well — literally everyone in Toronto wins. When you couple this with coach Nick Nurse’s bold and player-friendly approach, it becomes harder to bet against the Raptors.
So then, how do the Raptors get from here to another championship? Well, there’s a scenario in which they claw past the Celtics and once again make it into a showdown with the Bucks. In this universe, the same problems that hit Milwaukee last season come to the fore once again (e.g. betting on Eric Bledsoe, an inability to solve Toronto’s defense, etc.), and the Raptors pull off the upset. As for the favourite Lakers, while there is no question that team’s two best players are better than anyone on Toronto, the rest of the roster is just as imbalanced and creaky as it ever was. The Raptors are built on a stronger foundation overall, one designed to propel them past a top heavy team like L.A. (Note: it did happen already in the regular season, a time that feels a long time ago now, but still.)
Will this actually come to pass? Again, the odds appear to be against the Raptors, and I admit I struggle to see how it will all work — especially since everything about the situation right now is unprecedented. Still, Toronto has proven themselves over the past 393 days (and counting) to be a resilient bunch. What’s one more challenge?
Josh Lewenberg breaks down the next steps for the Raptors with the team travelling from Naples to Orlando on Thursday. If everything goes according to plan, Toronto will practice on Saturday for the first time since March.
TSN Basketball analyst Jack Armstrong joins the guys on OverDrive to discuss the Raptors potential first round matchup depending on what happens in the first eight games.
The Toronto Raptors arrived in Orlando Thursday in their Black Lives Matter buses. The team shared images on their social media accounts with the caption ‘silence is not an option’.
“I think the two best teams in the East are Boston and Toronto,” veteran Toronto Raptors beat writer Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, said on the Celtics Talk Podcast on Thursday. “I like Milwaukee a lot, but they’ve never been there. And I think that’s a big, big concern. The Raptors’ experience and their adaptability in games … I don’t think it gives them an edge, but it’s a big plus for them.”
The Celtics have been talked about often as one of the teams that can potentially upend the Bucks and get out of the East.
To a lesser extent, the same can be said for the defending NBA champion Raptors, who have been able to successfully navigate through a season filled with injuries to key players to enter the bubble in Orlando with the NBA’s third-best record.
But you wouldn’t know they were that good by the minimal talk surrounding them as potential repeat champions – which was fueled by the departure of last year’s NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, and 3-and-D ace Danny Green, who now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Even with Leonard and Green moving on, Toronto has been a ruggedly tough team in the East.
Pascal Siakam has emerged as an All-Star this season. Outside of maybe Boston’s Kemba Walker, there’s not a more underrated point guard in the NBA than Kyle Lowry. Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol give Toronto the kind of veteran presence in the frontcourt that all title-contenders long to have on their roster.
And let’s not forget about head coach Nick Nurse, who will surely get some serious love when the season is over when it comes to Coach of the Year voting.
Davis is already generating a decent amount of his offence as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls. He’s averaging only 0.8 points per game on those plays, but that makes up nearly a fifth (16.8 percent) of his scoring on the season. The problem is he hasn’t been particularly efficient. With an average of 0.68 points per possession, he ranks in the 23rd percentile in pick-and-roll efficiency alongside the likes of Matthew Dellavedova, Maurice Harkless and Trevor Ariza, players who aren’t exactly known for their ability to create their own shot.
There are a couple of reasons why that number is as low as it is. The first? Davis is a turnover machine. According to NBA.com, he has turned the ball over on 25.0 percent of his pick-and-roll possessions this season, the 17th highest rate in the league. Growing pains have something to do with that – he is a rookie after all – so you’d think him learning to pick and choose his spots better and improving as a passer, both of which should come with time, will go a long way in bringing his turnover frequency down.
The second? As Davis alluded to, he’s struggled to make shots off the dribble. According to NBA.com, he has connected on only 32.0 percent of his 3-point pull-ups and 11.1 percent of his 2-point pull-ups this season. (To be fair to Davis, he rarely shoots from midrange. That 11.1 percent is based on a miniscule sample size of 18 shots. There’s a chance that he’ll never be much of a midrange scorer, but there is a world in which he is, so it feels wrong to completely disregard it).
If Davis can’t become a more efficient shooter off the dribble, it makes him rather easy to defend in pick-and-rolls because teams will simply drop underneath screens to bait him into settling for the pull-ups he hasn’t been able to make consistently to this point of the season. It’s not something that’s happened much yet, but you best believe teams will hone in on it in the playoffs if he is going to run more pick-and-rolls.
Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
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